BGA: Running Backs – The holly and the Ivory

It was fun to watch the Jets running game rack up over 200 yards yesterday, with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell accounting for 110 yards after contact between them. Ivory broke eight tackles, a season high, on his way to his third 100-yard game of the season. Powell’s 54 yards – 39 of which came on the burst before half time that set up the game-tying field goal – came on just seven carries and were the most yards he’s had in a game since Brian Winters moved into the starting lineup in week five.

The pair have combined for almost 1,500 yards with each of them having a career year. Ivory is likely to fall just short of the 1,000 yard mark (he needs 176 in his last game), but Powell might have a shot at 1,000 yards from scrimmage (he needs 103). Having lost Mike Goodson early in the season and suffered through some run-blocking struggles on the line, Ivory and Powell have established themselves as a solid one-two punch that could be a foundation of the offense next season.

The Browns run defense has been pretty good this season, so managing to rack up so many yards on them is an impressive feat. They did it consistently too, with over 100 yards in each half. While Geno Smith’s scrambling did boost those numbers artificially, they also used their receivers on a couple of gadget plays, with mixed results.

The Jets had some nicely designed plays that got their backs into space, but the bulk of the yardage came from them breaking tackles in the hole to get out to the second level. Ivory in particular showed terrific burst and power all day, with seven runs of at least seven yards (although one of these was called back for a holding penalty).

Other than his long run before half time, Powell did convert a couple of short first downs and also caught four passes, one of which went for a 31-yard gain that was also called back due to a holding penalty down the field. They were both effective when called upon to pass protect too.

Ivory did miss one block in the running game and still only has two pass receptions on the year, but we’ve never doubted his ability to carry the ball effectively and he’s been extremely efficient over the second half of the season in particular.

At fullback, Tommy Bohanon had one bad missed block, but otherwise was mistake free. He was targeted once on an incomplete pass.

Alex Green was used as a decoy again on a couple of wildcat-type plays. He hasn’t carried the ball since week eight.


Next up…the offensive line tries out some different things.

38 comments
juunit
juunit

RB is definitely still a need. Powell hadn't had 54 yards since week 5 and Ivory has caught 2 passes all year. 


Powell is still a 3rd RB to me.


People love to belittle the RB position and say it can be essentially ignored. But there's really no denying the impact an elite RB still has on the game. I think the big point people miss, is that while RBs can be found in the later rounds, those guys found in the later rounds end up becoming elite players. It's not as if any RB, like, say, Bilal Powell, can be a starting RB who really affects the game. And, this still goes back to the strategy idea. Just because some teams have found good RBs later on doesn't mean it's a good idea to plan on doing the same. The fact is, it's still easier to find a good RB earlier on.

Gavin David Buck
Gavin David Buck

Hi Bent, 


Why do you say Geno's running boost the numbers artificially? I am not sure what you mean by it. Is it that Ivory and Powell's performance are diminished by Geno's running? I think it is a nice complement and don't anyone say that about Marshawn Lynch when Russel Wilson has a big day.


I acknowledge I may have got the wrong end of the stick here, though.

djf1
djf1

Also - lately we seem to be breaking longer runs - is this more of a function of better blocking, or better reads by the backs?  (I know, it's probably both.)

levi
levi

I really wanted to see how Goodson would do in this offense but Powell and Ivory have been working well together. I love watching Ivory run but damn he must spend a lot of time in the ice bath.

djf1
djf1

Bent, if Goodson gets healthy, do they go with a 3 RB core next year?  Will each RB remain effective with reduced snaps,  or does someone like ivory need semi consistent playing time?

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit It's not even close to the top need, though. 


I agree that Powell is a 3rd RB, and Goodson can't really be relied on at this point, but there are much bigger needs.

levi
levi

@juunit I would put the "need" for it behind a few other spots though so I dont see them picking one early.

a57se
a57se

@juunitAgreed, a Matt Forte type RB would be perfect for this team and MM's offense. A guy like Marion Grice or Charles Sims in the draft would be a nice addition...

Bent
Bent

@Gavin David Buck No, it doesn't diminish their performance.  Just that the rushing totals can be misleading when some of it is made up of yardage from quarterback scrambles on busted pass plays.


It's less of an issue when the numbers are inflated from a big number to a big number, but look at it this way: If the Jets rushed for 120 yards you might think the running backs had a good performance, but then if you looked closer and the QB accounted for 65 yards, then you'd see that the numbers were artificially skewed.


It's why the Raiders were among the league leaders in rushing earlier in the year, despite the fact their running backs were having a poor season (since Terrelle Pryor had a ton of rushing yards).

djf1
djf1

@Gavin David Buck I assume he just meant they're not designed runs, and can't be used to evaluate the actual running game.

hawkeye
hawkeye

@Gavin David Buck Its "artificial" because Geno is getting his rushing yards on pass plays.  So it in no way diminishes what Ivory and Powell did, it just makes the team rushing numbers higher than they would be if the designed passes had worked as they were suppose to.

juunit
juunit

@levi@juunit 

Maybe so. But if in the, let's say, 3rd round, the best guy available is a 3-down, do it all RB, I don't see how we pass that up. Nor would I want us to pass that up. 

djf1
djf1

@levi@juunit yeah, I don't see RB as a high need, especially with goodson coming back.

djf1
djf1

@juunit@Brendan we use two backs, otherwise he'd be easily over 1000.  aalmost no one uses a single back anymore.


juunit
juunit

@SackDance99@Brendan@juunit 

Pretty much agreed. Working under the assumption the Bucs pick we get stays as a 3rd rounder, I think we need to add a LB with one of those first four picks. I know it isn't popular, but I'd possibly take a LB in the 2nd and push the TE to the 3rd, depending on how it plays out. 

SackDance99
SackDance99

@Brendan@juunitI think a pass-receiving RB that is versatile enough to run inside, but really is a legitimate threat to go around end to the house (like a Leon-type) would really help this offense.  I respect Ivory's game and he is exactly the type of hammer you want to wear down defenses, but I'm still a believer in "you pass to score, run to win" so if you just replace Powell's reps with a more dynamic RB, then I think you get more out of the offense.  I'm very envious at how the Saints use Sproles and Cincy uses Bernard...I think guys like that raise the offense a couple of notches, maybe even more than having a stud WR.  The good thing is you can draft a pass-catching RB in the 3rd round, but pretty much have to go for a stud WR early.  1st round WR, second round TE and third RB and the Jets are well on their way to a better offense.

juunit
juunit

@Brendan@juunit 

Yeah, most teams do use more than one RB. But that doesn't mean their starter isn't elite in their own right. I mean, the Texans have Tate, but I don't think anyone would argue that Foster isn't capable of doing it all himself. 

I just want the primary RB to be a guy that's actually versatile. It opens up so many more options. 

juunit
juunit

@Bent@juunit@Brendan 

Right. But relying on an unknown like that is poor roster construction. 

Just like relying on Matt Simms to be QB2 potentially cost us a playoff run. And relying on Colin Baxter. And the list goes on. 

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit Aside from a small group (McCoy, Charles, Peterson...any others?), every team uses the tandem/RB committee approach. The Jets shouldn't put their eggs in the "find the next Jamaal Charles" basket and instead just try to find a complimentary back to Ivory, use a three-pronged approach so everyone stays fresh, and upgrade the receivers. 


If something falls to them? I'm not against taking a RB, but it shouldn't be at the top of the list of priorities. 

juunit
juunit

@Bent@juunit@Brendan 

Then who knows if he can maintain that level of production or even stay on the field. 

LT is a perfect example. He started off seasons well for us, but clearly tired out by the end. If Ivory is running hard for 16+ games, who is to say he can maintain his effectiveness? 

juunit
juunit

@Brendan 

Gore can catch, for whatever reason, he only has 15 this year. He's caught as many as 61 in a single season. 


Morris is a legitimate example. They have to bring in Helu (or Royster) if they want a 3rd down back. But Morris scores TDs at least. 7 and 13 in his 2 seasons... Ivory has 3.

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit Is Alfred Morris a starting-caliber RB? Frank Gore? 


Morris has 7 catches, Gore has 15. Not exactly prolific, but both are bruising backs that wear down defenses, like Ivory. 

juunit
juunit

@Brendan@juunit 

When you combine the fact that those other guys catch passes? It makes him a bottom of the barrel, fringe starter. If you're OK with that when we all know the QB isn't going to light the world on fire, that's up to you. But I just don't understand that. 

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit He's 17th in rushing yards in the league right now. That's not starter-quality? 

Brendan
Brendan

@Bent Beat me to it, was just compiling those stats. 

Bent
Bent

@juunit @Brendan Over the last 7 games (since he's been the feature back), he has 584 yards at 5.6 a pop.  That does scream feature back to me.

juunit
juunit

@Brendan@juunit 

I don't think so. He still hasn't and likely won't break 1,000 yards and he's a one-trick pony. That doesn't scream feature back to me. 

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit He's top-10 in ypc this year for NFL RB's. I think it's time to admit that Ivory is a legit starting RB and you find a guy to complement him. 

juunit
juunit

@Brendan@juunit 

He's rushed for 150 yards once in his career. 

He's a solid RB, but because of his lack of capability in the 3rd round, I just don't see him as a starter. If he is your second RB, and the first guy is a true threat from all over the place, it really increases the danger of the backfield. 

Yeah, we had the top rushing attack with Jones. We also had a bottom ranked defense because it was a quantitative instead of qualitative attack. 

Just look at what the Steelers are doing with Bell. His rushing numbers aren't even that special. But he has lots of yards from scrimmage because they send him out wide, matched up on LBs and he consistently wins. 

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit Why can't you? 


Ivory is a legit RB, he will put up good #'s as long as he gets touches and decent blocking. 


Your real issue it sounds like is a lack of a true receiving threat RB who can be a true change-of-pace from Ivory's style. Goodson can't be relied on for that, which is why I'm okay looking for a replacement for him in the draft, but you have your workhorse and your backup do-it-all (just not very well) RB. 


The team doesn't need an elite RB to be good, hell they lead the league in rushing with "4 yards and fall down" Thomas Jones. 


They just need someone who can catch and give defenses something else to plan for, not a new feature back. 

juunit
juunit

@djf1@Brendan@juunit 

But that's the point. You can't expect to get that every game with Ivory and Powell. And 150 yards on the ground is still completely ignoring all the passing yards you can get with a RB who can do more than just run.

greggreen
greggreen

@Brendan @djf1 Id be fine with a running back drafted but not until the 4th or lower. no need to really go after one

Brendan
Brendan

@djf1 Right. And Ivory's pass blocking is much improved. 


I am not expecting any movement on the RB depth chart this offseason unless they cut Goodson.